Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown, Brian Higgins Ask NFL to Revise Blackout Policy

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday asking the league to revise its new blackout policy.

The letter praises the NFL’s step to adopt a new policy, which came after months of pressure from the three, as well as from Sports Fans Coalition, but expresses concern about the way the new policy works. The new policy requires that 50% of any ticket revenue over the blackout threshold (whether it be 85% or some number up to 100%) goes to visiting teams rather than the status quo of 34%.

This means that if teams set the bar too low, they will give away more revenue to the league, which is why several teams that have had blackout issues (including the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers)  have indicated they won’t use the new policy.

Blumenthal, Brown and Higgins write:

[W]e have serious concerns that the second part of this new policy, which requires teams to forgo a significant portion of revenue from tickets sold over the 85% threshold, dissuades teams from trying this new policy. This punitive policy creates undue tension between the twin goals of ensuring loyal fans can watch at home and endeavoring to sell as many tickets as possible above the threshold.

The three offer up a couple different proposals:

With this concern in mind we respectfully urge the NFL to amend the rule by dropping the punitive portion regarding revenue from tickets sold above the 85% threshold. If simply dropping the section is not acceptable, we suggest an alternative amendment. For teams that decide not to opt-in to the new policy for a full season, each team should be allowed two waivers of the local blackout policy per year, which could be activated no sooner than 72 hours before kickoff.

Finally, the three conclude their letter by calling attention to the fact that top economists agree that NFL blackouts only harm consumers without providing any financial benefit to teams.

You can read the complete letter here.

We applaud Sen. Blumenthal, Sen. Brown and Rep. Higgins for their leadership on this issue and for continuing to work to put an end to blackouts. They are truly friends of sports fans everywhere.

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